6 Steps to Creating a Youth Entrepreneurship Program in Your Local Church
The Abundant Life Church strives to be a place where people of all ages can connect their faith and work. As our leaders were planning and praying about our annual Vacation Bible School, we recognized an issue with our youth that was not being addressed. Many of our youth needed to grow in academic and economic wisdom, and the local church could be the place for that to happen.
After tossing some ideas around ranging from tutoring to a mentoring program, we decided to consider teaching entrepreneurship to our youth. We formed a relationship with the National Foundation For Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), and four teachers from our congregation were certified through NFTE to teach entrepreneurship. A non-profit agency gave a generous donation to the church to financially support the program. Then we invited business leaders from the community to speak, and local entrepreneurs opened their businesses for site visits and question and answer sessions.
During the two week Biz-Camp, our young entrepreneurs learned the principles of running a business. They learned how to write a business plan and how to market and sell products and services. They studied financial management, customer service, and leadership. At the end of the two weeks, youth started businesses in dog walking, candy distribution, and baby sitting.
The Six Steps We Followed to Start Our Youth Entrepreneurship Program
Teaching entrepreneurship within faith and work helps youth develop character and skills for the future. Would a Biz-Camp be a good fit for your local church? Here are a few helpful suggestions to get started:
- Build A Team. Entrepreneurship is a team sport. You will need to assemble a team of leaders who see the vision and the need and are passionate about seeing youth thrive. Consider inviting leaders in your church to an entrepreneurship interest meeting. Share your ideas and then show them how those ideas will meet the needs of your youth. Invite their ideas and collaboration as you work together toward a plan.
- Gather Resources. You might be shocked to discover how many resources exist among your congregants. There are people who can donate their time, talent, and treasure to this vision if you are willing to seek them out. For example, one entrepreneur shared with our students his vision about how he got started in real estate, one house at a time, and now he owns several properties.
- Find Strategic Partners. Building a network of strategic partners will provide you with information and resources to start and sustain your program. Connect with your local Chamber of Commerce to learn about the businesses in your community and stay up-to-date on local business concerns. Establish a relationship with a bank to teach entrepreneurs how to secure capital and funding for future programing. You could also invite a restaurant owner to donate meals or offer meals at discount prices. The list is endless, and sometimes surprising! We even had a local funeral home donate funds and offer information how the funeral business works.
- Design a Plan. Having a plan is vital. Planning takes time and patience. Here are a few questions to get you started.
- What problem(s) are you trying to address?
- Who is your audience?
- What are their needs?
- What results are you looking for?
You can benchmark other entrepreneurship programs to see what other programs are doing. There maybe some principles and strategies you can adopt. You need to be aware that your ministry context may differ from others, so consider that before making it a part of your plan.
- Implement the Plan. This is where the rubber meets the road. Here are some things we did at Abundant Life.
- Our program ran for two weeks, Monday through Friday from 9:00am-4:00 pm.
- We began with prayer and breakfast followed by a session on business.
- The topics covered the life of an entrepreneur, writing a business plan, product and service development, marketing, management and administration, finance, and customer service.
- Subject matter experts were recruited to teach the material, and guest lecturers the sessions.
- We involved many volunteers to help with picking up supplies, preparing lunch, and chaperoning youth during the site visits.
- Evaluate the Plan. Evaluation is a very important piece to the future development of your entrepreneurship program. If you are a perfectionist, take heart. You’ll always have things that need to improvement, so don’t be afraid to make changes. Be a good listener and welcome feedback. Don’t be offended. Take time after your program to assess its successes and areas that need improvement. Incorporate those changes to your program the following year.
We pray that our Biz-Camp initiative encourages other church leaders to ask, “How can we introduce our young people to the wonderful world of entrepreneurship?”
Pastor Lawrence A. Ward is the Senior Pastor of Abundant Life Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a position he has held since June 1994. He also serves as the Presiding Elder of the New England District of the United Pentecostal Council of the Assemblies of God, Inc. As a minister, teacher, and trainer, he is involved with various organizations, including Cambridge Black Pastor’s Alliance and the Black Ministerial Alliance of Greater Boston. He currently serves on the board of Vision New England.Topics: Social Entrepreneurship, Students, Vocational Discipleship